Chapter Twenty-Four – Bushwhacked
I could probably devote at least a few paragraphs to how out of place the word ‘bushwhacked’ sounds in a high fantasy novel, but I won’t.
Apparently, an enemy army has surrounded Quashan’. I don’t know what an apostrophe is doing at the end of that word. The army isn’t letting anyone in or out, but otherwise, they’re not doing anything.
Chancellor Van’te is speaking to Sergeant Danyel’. No, I don’t know what those apostrophes are doing, either. The sergeant has roused a few more hundred men to the defenses. He’s proud that he hasn’t told any of them of the absence of the garrison. Yeah, I doubt you can hide the disappearance of an entire garrison of soldiers for very long.
Van’te and Danyel’ discuss what exactly made the garrison leave. Danyel’ points out that the seal was genuine, and perhaps the King actually needed them. This, of course, is referring to the garrison that King Jarom has probably tricked into leaving.
Suddenly a sentry shouts that there’s a runner coming. Van’te orders the archers to give the man some covering fire. I wonder, what exactly is the point of a siege if you’re allowing runners to get through?
The runner makes it into the city and gives them the message. Van’te reads it. It’s from Prince Valam (Van’te recognizes the handwriting) and essentially states that if they open the city gates, the army will guarantee safe passage out for anyone who wants to leave. However, Van’te can tell Valam was forced to write the message and didn’t believe the words he was writing, because some of the lines are darker than others. It doesn’t really make sense, but I’ll assume that Valam and Van’te have a system worked out so if Valam was ever captured and forced to write messages, he would make the lies slightly darker than everything else.
Wait a second. Valam is currently being held captive. Which means the runner was sent from the people who are holding him captive. Who are in league with the army surrounding the city. So why, exactly, was the army surrounding the city trying to stop the runner, forcing the archers on the city walls to lay down covering fire?
Maybe they were just faking trying to capture the runner.
We switch back to Adrina and co. Emel and Valam are discussing how many men are around the periphery of the camp. Meanwhile, we get some character development for Adrina, which is exciting:
A day of trudging along overgrown paths had left her exhausted and in tears. Mostly she was distraught because she had always considered herself capable of doing anything a man could do, yet every day now she saw how much she depended on Emel and Valam to make it through the day – especially this last day. Here she had found a bitter truth, until now her life had been the pampered and sheltered life of a spoiled little girl (page 317).
It’s delightfully refreshing to get a hint of character development, even though we’re being told, rather than shown. Still, it’s a step in the right direction, and hopefully it will continue, because honestly, when Adrina is full of confidence about her own abilities, she is an annoying little shit. Also, I really enjoy watching Adrina get cut down to size.
Adrina sits there for awhile. thinking about how she needs to actually start looking around and seeing things around her. Some time passes, and suddenly Emel pokes her. They’re escaping. Adrina realizes they’ve cut the ropes off her and she didn’t even notice. The irony is just killing me here.
After a few more minutes Valam signals Emel, and he slips away. They wait a few seconds, and then Valam sends Adrina after him. They scurry along through the forest and finally reach the edge of the camp. Emel grabs her and hugs her and they wait for Vilmos to show up. Suddenly a figure appears. It’s not Vilmos. Emel and Adrina drop down behind a bush and watch.
A woman named Erravane and Prince William talk. Erravane says that she has found what William is looking for. And the traitor. She drops a severed head to the ground and kicks it. It rolls past Adrina and she almost screams. More and more, I am regretting ever even thinking she was going to be a Spunky Princess.
William and Erravane talk some more and mention King Jarom’s army. The conversation doesn’t make sense. Finally they leave.
A few minutes later, Valam shows up. They look around for Vilmos. And then, hidden in the shadows, on the far opposite side of the camp, they see him. Apparently he went the wrong direction. In the middle of the night, you would not be able to see someone on the other side of the camp, especially in the shadows. It’s not possible. The firelight between the two of you would prevent anything from being seen.
Adrina says they have to wait for him. Valam says they can’t, they don’t have time to waste. So they take off.
From the other side of the camp, Vilmos watches them go. He’s pissed off because they abandoned him. Even though it’s his own fault. I mean, I know navigating your way through the forest in the middle of the night isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but if a clueless princess can manage it, so should you.
He sees something moving, so he takes off running. He runs for awhile until dawn breaks, and finally stops and sits down on a stump.
We switch back to Adrina and co. They’re running along. Adrina’s feet are hurting her more and more. Finally Valam slings Adrina over his shoulder and they keep running. Periodically they hear shouts behind them. They keep running. Finally they stop for a rest. Emel asks Adrina if she can run on her own. She says she can. So after a bit they keep running.
Finally they reach a clearing and Adrina trips over a body. Emel and Valam pick her up, but by then they’re surrounded by dark shapes with glowing eyes.
An old woman appears. Adrina recognizes her voice as Erravane’s. Right, so Erravane was back at the camp, and then she left shortly after they did, traveled in the same direction they were traveling, but faster, and arrived at her camp just in time for them to stumble across her?
Valam grabs Erravane’s arm and twists it behind her back. She laughs. Valam twists harder, trying to break her arm. But nothing happens, and suddenly Erravane begins to shape shift and turn into a large…monster. Stanek doesn’t actually describe anything besides her large, wolflike jaws (that she promptly bites Valam’s hand with) and her front paw. I’ll guess that she’s a large furry wolf/bear-like creature.
Erravane tells everyone not to move.
Valam spoke again, but took care not to move. “What do you hope to gain from this? Prince William will kill the lot of you as soon as he has no need for you?” (page 326).
I don’t think that second question mark needs to be there.
Erravane says she will make sure he always has need of her until she has everything that she needs. And now, she has them.
Chapter Twenty-Five – Conquest
We’re back to Keeper Martin. He’s a little disturbed. Another Keeper has informed him via dream-message that Quashan’ is under siege.
He meets up with Captain Adylton and they talk about how long it will take to get to Quashan’. Two to three days for the horsemen to get there, with hard riding, but at least a week for the foot soldiers to arrive. I have no idea if this is an accurate assessment of how fast cavalry vs. infantry can travel, but considering the lack of research that permeates this novel, I’m not going to give Stanek the benefit of the doubt.
Adylton explains that all of the watchmen in the camp are his own men, while he’s given Trendmore’s watchmen liberty to roam around the city. Trendmore is clueless. I am forced to admit that’s actually a reasonably intelligent method of going about this mutiny.
Adylton asks about Alderan. Martin says it’s gone. Adylton then asks about Prince Valam. Martin says nothing.
Martin was sure Captain Adylton was going to collapse. The captain’s knees bowed and his face became ashen. Martin grabbed the captain’s shoulders to steady him. (page 330).
Seriously? He’s a captain in the army. He sees horrible death and carnage on a daily basis. The idea that your prince might be dead is not something that would make a lifelong military man almost faint.
Once Adylton recovers, he starts to think. After a few minutes he suggests ferrying his soldiers down the River Trollbridge, which will get them to within a day’s march of Quashan’.
Back to Adrina. She begs Erravane to let her untie the body on the ground – who is Galan. I have no idea how Erravane found her or why she kidnapped her and left Seth behind. Don’t worry, though – this will never be explained. Erravane ignores Adrina and orders them to tell her where the boy is (meaning Vilmos). Erravane has one of her beasts knock Valam to the ground and hold him down. She asks which one of them is going to talk, and if not, who will die? No one says anything. I’m not sure why, since none of them have any idea where Vilmos is. But Erravane decides to kill Adrina and grabs her by the throat.
Emel shouts for her to let Adrina go, and says that he will die in her stead. Valam adds that if Erravane will let both Emel and Adrina go, he’ll do whatever she wants. Erravane asks if that’s a promise. But they’re interrupted by Xith showing up. He uses the Voice on her and orders her to return to Under-earth. Erravane attacks him and knocks him down. Xith lies on the ground beneath her calmly, and tells her again to return home. Erravane says that she’s carrying Prince William’s child inside her. Okay then. This is an interesting turn of events.
Xith and Erravane share some random conversation that doesn’t make sense, but they finally make a deal: Erravane is sending her pets to kill Vilmos. If they succeed in killing him, Xith will submit to Erravane’s will. He’s even willing to help her birth the demon-spawn in her womb. However, if Vilmos kills the Wolmerrelle, Erravane will return to Under-earth.
I have no idea why either of them is making this deal. It really doesn’t make any sense. At the moment, Erravane thinks Xith is helpless beneath her, so there’s no reason for her to make any sort of agreement with him. And as we’re going to find out in a few pages (spoiler alert) Xith is just bluffing and can actually kick her ass at any moment, so there’s no reason for him to make any sort of agreement with her.
We skip back over to Vilmos. He wakes up and realizes the Wolmerrelle is hunting him. So he takes off and runs for a little over a page. After a while he sees a flash of movement. He conjures up his magical shield just as a Wolmerrelle jumps at him and bounces off. The magical shield drops. The Wolmerrelle attacks again. Vilmos punches it in the head, and then zaps it with some blue Force-electricity. The creature falls down dead.
He sits for awhile, tired, and then more creatures attack. Vilmos throws up the magic shield. There’s five of them. They attack one at a time, bouncing off the magic shield, but he manages to keep it up. This continues for about four pages. Eventually, Vilmos fries all of them with the Force-electricity, suffering only a few minor bites in the process. In the end, he collapses, unconscious.
Back to Xith. He calmly informs Erravane that if she attacks him, their agreement is null and void. Also, if she doesn’t manage to kill him with the first blow, he’s going to kill her. One way or the other.
Deftly Erravane swept back her hand. “This is far from over.” She said it evilly. She was hiding something and apparently Xith knew it (page 339).
There are few things I hate more than the narrator telling us that a character says something ‘evilly’.
Xith grabs her in a Force-choke. I’m starting to see why Stanek calls this series ‘Star Wars with Elves’.
Several of Erravane’s creatures charge forward. Xith flicks a finger and fries one of the Wolmerrelle into a piece of toast. As I said, Xith was bluffing. At any moment he could have made Erravane his bitch, but he didn’t. Why? Well, no real reason. He also made a promise – a promise which apparently was binding in some way – which was really stupid of him to make, considering it was betting on an apprentice who we all know is as dumb as a rock and very incompetent. Which means Xith is as stupid as the rest of these characters.
Seth suddenly appears from nowhere and starts attacking the Wolmerrelle. Wow, Seth recovered quickly. Wasn’t he lying around unconscious about a day ago? I guess those healing stones work really well. Seth and Xith proceed to make mincemeat (and toast) out of all of them until they’re all dead.
Xith asks Erravane when King Jarom will meet with Prince William. Erravane explains that Jarom’s advanced guard has laid siege to Quashan’, and they should all be meeting up tomorrow. Or possibly longer. Xith lets Erravane go and informs her that if they ever meet again, he’s going to kill her. She leaves.
Adrina tends to a scratch that Seth has. They free Galan and give her water. She’s still not well, so Valam, who has been ogling her, offers to carry her. Then they all head off to find Vilmos.